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A Free Reading Passage on Christopher Columbus for AP U.S. History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jun 6

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Christopher Columbus is an illustrative example of the Native American Societies before European Contact topic in Period 1 of AP U.S. History. You could reference this example on your AP U.S. History test.



Christopher Columbus portrait
787303267/Shutterstock


Christopher Columbus, born in Genoa, Italy, around 1451, grew up near the sea and developed a passion for exploration and navigation. His early years were spent mastering the skills of seafaring, which fueled his ambition to find new trade routes to distant lands.


In the late 15th century, European nations were eager to find new trade routes to the East to access precious spices and silks. Columbus had a bold idea: to reach Asia by sailing west, across the Atlantic Ocean. This idea was radical at the time, as many believed the ocean was either an endless expanse or filled with mythical sea monsters.


After years of seeking support, Columbus finally found patrons in King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. In 1492, they provided him with three ships—the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María—and he set sail from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, with a crew of brave men.


After weeks of arduous travel, on October 12, 1492, Columbus and his crew sighted land. They landed on an island in the Bahamas, which Columbus named San Salvador. Believing he had found islands off the coast of Asia, Columbus had actually stumbled upon a New World.


Columbus and his crew explored further, discovering parts of what are now Cuba and Hispaniola. The lands were lush, the waters clear, and the indigenous peoples—whom Columbus mistakenly called "Indians"—were intriguing and friendly. However, Columbus's interactions with the native populations were often harsh and exploitative. He saw the indigenous peoples primarily as a source of labor and wealth. Reports from his voyages indicate that he enslaved many natives, forcing them to work in brutal conditions to extract gold and other resources. Those who resisted faced severe punishment, including mutilation and death. Columbus's governance in the New World was marked by cruelty and a disregard for the well-being of the native populations.


The treatment of his crew was also problematic. While some sailors admired Columbus for his navigational skills and leadership, others grew increasingly disillusioned by his harsh discipline and the dangerous conditions of their voyages. Mutinies were a constant threat, and Columbus often attempted to maintain control through strict measures and punishments.


Columbus's voyages initiated an era of exploration and conquest that would forever change the world. European nations rushed to claim parts of the New World, leading to the establishment of colonies and the exchange of goods, ideas, and technologies between the Old and New Worlds—a phenomenon known as the Columbian Exchange. This exchange brought new crops like potatoes, tomatoes, and maize to Europe, revolutionizing diets and agriculture.


Unfortunately, the arrival of Europeans led to the exploitation and suffering of indigenous populations. Diseases like smallpox, to which Native Americans had no immunity, spread rapidly, decimating entire communities. The quest for wealth resulted in the brutal treatment and enslavement of many native peoples, leaving a legacy of sorrow and conflict.



Printable Reading Passage on Christopher Columbus


Christopher Columbus FREE Reading Passage


Do you want to watch a video about Christopher Columbus?





European Exploration in the Americas

Period 1

AP U.S. History




Christopher Columbus


#NativeAmerican #UnitedStates

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jun 6

5

0

0

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